Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Playing with the Palette for my Next Project

Nice alliteration in the title, eh?

So apparently it's not enough that I currently have four projects in the works; I have to start thinking about my fifth. Someone shoot me before I hurt myself.

What's on my design wall, cutting mat, or sewing machine right now?

(1) Pinwheel project (it's made significant progress since the last post that talked about it); (2) Serengeti project (from my May quilt retreat--apparently I've not posted a pic of it yet, sorry); (3) Chicken Butt project; (4) Hexie project (have 39 out of about 180 hexies cut). Plus two UFOs that really just need to get done this summer because they're starting to annoy me, hanging on their hangers, mocking me every time I walk by them.

But still, I can't help myself. I started playing with fabrics in my stash the other night. Here's the palette that resulted.

The two that got things rolling are the second and third in from the left. Several weeks ago I'd been moving fabrics around and just tossed one of those on top of the other to get it momentarily out of the way. When I went to pick it up later to put it away, I was struck by the two sitting side-by-side. Not my normal color palette at all. But even after I'd put them back in their normal locations, I found myself thinking about those two colors again and again. I finally put myself out of my quilty misery and started pulling other pieces off my shelf.

I was a little worried about contrast until I took the black and white version. It actually seems to be OK. I might still want something a hair lighter in there, maybe another print, but since I don't even know what I'm doing with them yet, I'm not sweating it at the moment.

I think I know what they're destined to become a part of, but it's all very misty in my head. I'll let it percolate on its own for awhile; it'll all come together in due time.

Apparently I'm working at a very high level of distraction these days. I suspect that has to do with the fact that it's crunch time at work right now; lots of deadlines hitting all at once. I can keep track of everything and stay head-down-blinders-on-nose-to-the-grindstone while I'm working. Then I get off my computer at the end of the work day and it's like every methodical part of me flies out the window and I can't keep focus for more than seven seconds at a time. I can live with that--I know it's not Normal Me so I'll roll with it and welcome Normal Me whenever she decides to come back and live in my house again.

Meanwhile, I have some fabric to go pet.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Stash Challenge Project Results

I started another blog entry and then decided I really should devote one to my stash challenge project first. This quarter's challenge was to do something inspired by children's artwork and to use at least three fabrics from my stash. Well, if you read this blog entry a few days ago, you'll know it started out a bit rocky. But it got better from there. It's not completely done, but at least the main part is done and it wouldn't really take me all that long to finish him up. I just need to figure out when I'm going to do that. (See my next blog entry for my current quilty distraction level!)

So--before I show you the artwork it was based on, let me give you the backstory. When my daughter was a sophomore in high school, her art teacher had the class do a project on shadowing, which had the main purpose of teaching kids that shadows don't always have to be black or gray. The teacher hung a bunch of beanie babies from the ceiling (can't imagine how gruesome that may have appeared!) and instructed the kids to sketch the beanie baby nearest them in colored chalk on black paper. My daughter was the only kid in the class to take that quite literally--she drew exactly what she saw.

Introducing...Chicken Butt.

Yes, this is the only beanie baby backside represented in the entire art class. My daughter has a true sense of the ridiculous. That's my girl.

He's been hanging on the bulletin board next to my desk ever since she brought him home at the end of the year. He makes me laugh every time I look at him. So, when I hit upon the idea of making a challenge based on children's artwork, he became the obvious first choice. (I have another one of my daughter's artworks from around the same time that's also destined to be a wallhanging at some point, but it's much more sophisticated. No fluffy backsides involved.)

I decided to turn him into fused applique and then threadpaint him, trying as much as possible to imitate her cross-hatching and use of color.

Here's my result.

The background got a little puckery, although not as bad as it looks in this photo because I'd just pulled him out of the totebag I bring to my guild meetings--he got a little wrinkly in his trip to show n' tell.

The puckering is because I used a lighter weight stabilizer than I should have, but I followed the advice of my thread-painting teacher and used a steam iron frequently during the process, so the puckering actually isn't all that bad. And I think a lot of it will actually quilt out. Whenever I get around to quilting it, that is.

I had a ton of fun figuring out what color thread to use where. Mostly I used stuff in my thread collection (not quite big enough to be considered a "thread stash" yet). I did have to buy orange, pink, and blue thread since I didn't have any of the right shades. The blue came out darker than I thought it would--I'd have preferred something a little lighter.

His comb was fun to do. Also, you can sorta-barely tell in this photo that I used a tone-on-tone white for his body. I wanted to see what it would look like. I think it just adds a little extra dimension and fills in where I may have not been quite as even-handed with the thread.

I also had fun with the feet--I loved the way my daughter had shaded his feet in the original artwork. If I'd had an additional orange that was a few shades darker than the main orange here, I could have done even more shading. But it's still cute.

The biggest issue I had throughout this process was deciding what direction I was going to thread-paint in. Some places I went north-south; others east-west; others diagonal, or curvy. Sometimes (like on the top of the feet) I painted myself sort of a border around the outside edge if I wanted it to be more clean. Other places, like the body, I intentionally went out and over the edge of the fabric to depict his fur. I kept her original drawing close by so I could check directionality and do my best to follow it.

It was an absolute blast. I only broke one needle (on his puffy little tail--the purple thread I had was far too thick for this project) and had a few thread-nests (same place, same reason). Otherwise it was a hoot and I can't wait to do it again!

Chicken Butt needs to be finished, and then I suspect he's destined to become one of a series. I have so many images of him in my head now. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If you'll permit me a departure from usual subjects for a moment...

It finally, and rather unexpectedly, hit me today.

I expect to get choked up at graduation.
I expect to get choked up (and probably more) when we drop her off at college and drive away that first time.

I seriously did not expect it today, when I ran her down to school for her last final exam of high school.

Baby girl is graduating.

We hopped in the car and headed down to school, as she ran me through her afternoon post-exam plans of walking from school into town with friends to hang out at the sub shop for awhile (Subway being the contemporary version of the 1950s soda shop around here). I dropped her off at the door after her habitual quick kiss on the cheek and, "Bye, Mom, love you!" tossed over her shoulder as she closed the car door behind her. I was fine. I pulled out of the parking lot, turned left onto the street to head back home, and the middle school came into view; it sits right next to the high school building. As I drew near the middle school, some class of kids came pouring out of a set of side doors with all sorts of balls in their hands and immediately started breaking up into groups based on whatever social categories exist for them at the moment. Guys wrestling in the grass, girls standing in tight circles whispering and giggling and looking nervously over the shoulders at the boys, a few kids standing uncomfortably by themselves around the fringe edges.

That's when it hit me. Baby girl is graduating. My throat tightened up as I recalled how relieved I was when both of my kids moved into high school--middle school is such a seething mass of hormones and every passing day brought its own drama. I watched those kids on the middle school lawn playing out whatever scenes their reality has set for them and remembered how vulnerable my own kids seemed during those years. Even now, picturing my middle-school kids' faces in my head, my heart twitches a little bit in memory--how much I wanted to protect them but needed to mostly let them find their own way; how alternatingly annoying and charming they could be; how we never quite knew what reaction to expect from one moment to the next; how relieved we'd be when baby girl would flash a smile instead of a scowl or when buzz-man (my son) would laugh something off rather than yell back in anger.

High school was ever so much easier.

As I drove away from my daughter today at the school, I realized that I hadn't waited for her to make it all the way into the front doors of the school like I always used to. I've had several months of reminding myself, "She's 18. She'll be at college soon. I won't even know what's going on." Apparently it's sunk in enough that I'm willing to assume she'll make it the 50 yards or so into the front door of the high school safely without me watching over her.

The event of going to college has very little to do with the kids learning to do without Mom and Dad, but with Mom and Dad learning that their kids are actually adults. And I'm good with that. I'm loving who my kids have grown up into. They may not always make the decisions I'd make, but generally speaking they make good ones. And the not-so-good ones, well, those are "learning experiences," as my Dad always used to call them.

My son is a few months away from being 21. I love the fact that he texts me several times a week--sometimes just to let me know what's going on with him; other times to ask for advice. My daughter has already said that she plans on putting Skype on her computer so we can do video calls with each other when she's gone. It's true--new communication has made the world much smaller these days. I'm excited for my daughter to start college--I think she's really going to bloom. My husband and I have commented to each other many times how much fun our kids are to hang out with now. They always have been, but there's a definite shift now into a different type of relationship. I'm enjoying every second of it.

So I'll wave farewell to the high school, the middle school, and the elementary school which all formed the locus of our lives for the last 20 years. I'll get a little choked up at graduation. I'll get even more so when we drop baby girl off at college. And I'll return to a house that would feel a bit too empty if it weren't for the two doofus dogs excited to get my undivided attention during the semester. And then we'll all move on to see what the future brings. Pretty cool stuff, all around.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quilting Florally...

Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
I've decided that flower arranging is a very quilty thing.

Years ago, when I was first married, I had this image in my head of having fresh flowers in my apartment every week. I didn't really care whether my husband or I got them--I just wanted them there. Soon enough, as financial realities took over (a year after we got married we were both in grad school and had both our babies before both of us graduated), fresh flowers dropped way to the bottom of the priority list and they only showed up once or twice a year...anniversaries and birthdays.

Now, twenty-some-odd-years later, things have eased up enough that I can once again usually afford to spring for some flowers from the flower shop of my grocery store. I've found that I thoroughly enjoy choosing flowers. I almost never buy their pre-made bouquets. Instead, with a full basket of groceries starting to melt behind me, I find myself going through all their floral options and picking out which ones really strike my fancy that week. What mood do I want to set? What color scheme am I going to work with? What textures do I want involved?

Funny, it wasn't until this week that it struck me. Dang it if I wasn't thinking "quilty" while I was doing it! I wanted a mix of floral texture--big and small petals, much like big and small prints. My main color scheme (white, this week) with a few surprising accent fabrics...oops...I mean flowers...thrown in. Layout...borders (how the taller flowers frame the shorter ones)...yep, I'm designing a quilt in a flower vase.

I realized that I get some of the same gratification from putting together a bouquet as I do putting together a quilt--and it goes a whole lot faster! And, I don't have to worry about messing it up with my still-growing-machine-quilting skills. (I suppose you could try to stuff a flower head under your sewing machine needle but I suspect that wouldn't end well for the flower or the machine.)

So, so far this weekend, this bouquet is about as quilty as I've gotten. I suppose I ought to put in at least a half hour or so on one of my projects but I'm strangely just not in the mood. I'll go pet some fabric and see if it motivates me. If not, I've got some flowers to go sniff.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Attack of the Hexies--Part I (Introducing the Quasi-Quilt-Along)

This week's podcast episode, "In Which the Hexagons Attack," sorta officially launches a quasi-quilt-along that Jaye at and Pam at and I are doing together using hexagons. Are we right in our heads, you may well ask? Remains to be seen. Especially after taking on projects using hexagons. I think I'll be all sorts of wrong by the time this is over.

So far I've worked out my design--kinda. (Have you noticed all the qualifiers I'm using in this post?) At least, I have an idea of where I'm heading and an idea of what it'll take me to get there. But I'm allowing myself elbow room for changes along the way. Organic, I think they call it. Allowing the quilt to speak for itself, they might say. Or, just hedging my bets. Which is more realistic but doesn't sound quite as artsy.

How is this a quasi-quilt-along? Well, we're not really giving you specific directions, patterns, designs, fabric quantities, or really anything else you can hang your hat on. Rather, we're giving you a process and a community. We're giving you links with information about the methods we'll be using, which you can find in the podcast show notes, or at Jaye or Pam's sites at the links above, and we'll be egging you on! We'll all be posting pics of our hexies in progress as we go, and sharing tips and tricks that we're picking up along the way. (Hint: There are no templates involved, and we're not hand-piecing. Although if that's your modus operandi, who am I to stop you?)

If you've never done a hexie before (like me), this is the perfect opportunity to try one out! Start with a small project (unlike me) and see how you like it.

If you've got hexie UFOs around, this is the perfect inspiration and encouragement to get 'er done! Did you get stuck on something? Post photos and get advice. Or just whine. We know how it feels.

If you're a hexie-afficianado and just want to do another one, come on board! Your experience is welcome.

Pam designed a great button for us to use--you'll see I've added it to the upper right of this blog. If you want to join us in making hexagons, go ahead and post the button on your blog too! Here's the link to it.

Leave a comment here or in the show notes to the podcast if you're on board! The more the merrier! Eventually I'll probably do some sort of give-away around it, just haven't gotten that far in my thinking yet. Let me at least get a few hexies cut, first....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nice day at a quilt show...

I invited my MIL to go along with me this morning to the Genesee Valley Quilt Club quilt show, which they do every two years. It's a really big show--they take over the fieldhouse at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Lots of special exhibits, nice selection of vendors... Seems that every time they've had it, I've been out of town. This was the first chance I had to go, and I invited my MIL to come along to see a little more of "my world." She really enjoyed herself. I didn't take a ton of pictures--I was mostly enjoying just looking at things. And since I was using my cell phone several that I did take didn't come out well. But here are a few that came out OK that you'll enjoy...

"Gary's Quilt" by Sonya Pease. Sonya's a friend from my guild and my often-retreat-roomie, but I didn't even realize this was her quilt until after I started snapping pictures of it.

The colors attracted me at first, and I'm a sucker for a nice medallion center. But when you get closer to this quilt...

 realize it's 3D! Check out the blocks--folded fabric. I didn't get a great picture of the border but you can sort of tell from this photo that it's also dimensional. Very cool

This is detail of the center medallion, which is also dimensional. Very hard to tell from this picture, but each of those little darker radials in the center is folded, and if I recall, so are the rust-colored points as well. (Don't quote me on that one now, though--I saw a lot of quilts today!)

I dug the fact that the dimensionality on this quilt was sort of a surprise element--you don't notice it until you're right up on it. Wonderful. Nice job, Sonya!

My cell phone camera really blurred this one--sorry. But it was a great photo quilt entitled "Tribute to the Women of Kenya" by Margaret Reek. The sign card read, "This quilt is a tribute to the Kenyan women pictured here, CTC International who rescued them and their disabled children from despair, and the American Sewing Guild Team who taught them to sew."

I love that she used this setting, in the shape of the country of Kenya, and the colors are from the Kenyan flag. The photo blocks are interspersed with blocks with symbols and sayings on them, and yes, that's a tail hanging down one side. Loved it.

And now for something completely different... "Winter Afternoon" by Caris Burton. The line running through the middle was blue--my cell sort of washed it out. I love the serenity of the piece. The quilting was straight horizontal lines across for most of it, but it was broken up by occasional boxes of other directional quilting.

"Many Molas" by Linda Bachman was inspired by molas from Panama. The card didn't say whether "inspired by" means that the applique blocks were molas themselves or whether Linda had made them based on molas. I tend to think the latter because there were other quilts in the show also inspired by molas--apparently it was a challenge.

I loved this quilt--great colors, great combination of machine and hand quilting/embroidery, and the setting and borders really worked with the feel of the mola blocks as well.

I love quilts in unusual shapes and this one grabbed me. "Legadema, Burnt Ebony's Daughter," by Patricia G. Faulkner, was inspired by one of her husband's photos from the Okavango River Delta in Botswana. I love how she laid the subject behind the grassy elements--you really do get the feel of the wild in this one.

One of the special exhibits was the "Fiber Face Project." Unfortunately I didn't get all the details of the project but it was a collection of local city school kids who had all done self-portraits in fabric. They were very, very cool. This one was the first prize winner, although how they could've chosen was beyond me.

Gotta love the wholecloth quilt, right? "Double Trouble" by Ruth Ohoi was gorgeous--and this was the back of it! Unfortunately, there were no "helping hands" folks in sight for me to get a look at the other side. It's also brown--I have no idea why my cell phone decided to turn it white. It didn't change the color much on any other quilts. Go figure.

One of the exhibits was the Keepsake Quilting Challenge first and second prize winners from the last few challenges. Here is Diane McClure's first prize winner of the "Welcome to Spring" challenge from 2009. I just loved those bunnies--and I especially loved how she quilted them. Very simple.

Can you tell how small this is based on the car clipped to it? "Cosmos in Lavender and Green" by Jean Cody was the result of a class with George Siciliano, who is well known for miniatures.

Detail of "Cosmos." Look at that. Gorgeous. Intense.

I've always been a fan of quilts that take the center out into the border in some way. This one also mixes boxes with kaleidoscope hexagons, and then blows them out the sides like they can't be contained. "Asian Wonder" by Judy Perkins is based on the One Block Wonders Encore book. I love Judy's colors, color placement, and border treatments.

And lookie who I ran into? Beth Davis, of episode 10 "In Which We Chat with an Appraiser," is the Genesee Valley Quilt Club historian and had a fantastic display (which my BFF/BQF Kate helped create and staffed on occasion, although she left before I got there--I ran into Kate at one of the vendors later buying, guess what?, fabric). Beth gave my MIL and me a quick demonstration of yo-yo makers as yo-yos were part of the historical quilt display, and they were encouraging people to sit in the booth and make them. Unfortunately, my MIL and I were on our way out at that point so we didn't try our hands at it, but I will probably be buying myself a yo-yo maker soon. I'm not a huge fan of yo-yos, but the pinwheel quilt I'm working on is crying out for them. So thanks, Beth, for showing me that the yo-yo maker tool would really speed things up for me!

That's all the pictures that are worth sharing--not that the other quilts weren't beautiful but my cell was just not cooperating and none of the other pictures came out well. Including, most disappointingly, the grand prize winner. Hopefully GVQC will post photos on their website!

I didn't do much at the vendors--I did buy two jelly rolls of neutrals at one vendor who had a really good price. Jelly rolls are often shy on neutrals so it'll be nice to have some as back-up.

Then I came home and, filled with inspiration, worked for another hour on my stash challenge project. It's coming along well!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

And so the thread-sketching begins...

Or would it be thread-painting? Nope, I think I'm sketching more than painting, although I'm filling in quite a bit. So maybe it's impressionist painting?

You wanted pictures. Tee hee.

The point of no return...

Partway done...